Mountain Lion


OS X version 10.8, called "Mountain Lion," was released in July 2012.
Update 10.8.5 was released in September, 2013, and 10.8.5 Supplemental Update was released at the end of September 2013.
More information on Mountain Lion is in John Siracusa's Ars Technica review. This note describes how to update a computer with an older version of MacOS to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Features of Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion is "inspired by iPad" and features better security, further iCloud and iPhone integration, and more game support. Apple claims "200+ new features." Some of these features may not be useful to you, though; for example, I don't use any of the following:

Should I Buy and Install Mountain Lion?

Show Stoppers

All issues that were show stoppers for me have been resolved.

What you Should Do Now to Get Ready for Mountain Lion

Who Can Update

Not everyone can use the new OS version.

Plan your install

When you decide to install Mountain Lion, do it carefully. You may find that there are issues that affect you: do your homework. Check MacInTouch to see if there are problems with OS X 10.8 that affect you.

Make sure you back up your entire disk before starting to install Mountain Lion.

Make a list of the hardware you depend on, and search the web to check that each device will work. Older printers and scanners can have issues.

Leave yourself enough time. Upgrading will tie up your computer for a big part of a day. Installing takes an hour or two, but then your computer will want to re-do the Spotlight index and back up to Time Machine.

Finding PowerPC Programs

PowerPC-only programs on your computer will not run on Mountain Lion. To find these programs, select  ► About This Mac and then click More Info to generate a system report. In the left sidebar of this report, click Software ► Applications. This generates a table of all applications on your computer. Click on the Kind column header to sort by kind of application. Scroll down till you find the programs labeled PowerPC. Many of these programs are not problems: they are leftovers from old software installers or previous versions of software. For example /Library/Application Support/Adobe/ If you have questions, contact the manufacturer.

Particular issues before upgrading

Here is a partial list of minimum program versions needed for Mountain Lion. For other programs, check product websites.

ProgramMinimum VersionNotes
Microsoft Office20082011 Home version is about $110
Parallels6.0$50 upgrade
Quicken2007 "Lion Compatible" version$15 upgrade
Adobe PhotoshopCS5see Adobe site
Adobe IllustratorCS5see Adobe site
Suitcase Fusion4.0$50 upgrade
Little Snitch3.0.2$17 upgrade
Apple XCode4.4free

Installing Mountain Lion

I have upgraded three computers to Mountain Lion.

  1. Clean up and update software before installing.
    • (If your mac is running an old version of OS X, you must install Snow Leopard 10.6.8 first. Here is Apple's how to upgrade page.) Purchase Mountain Lion in the Apple App Store on your computer for $20. This downloads a large file, the Mountain Lion Installer, to your disk. You can dig into this installer and burn a bootable Mountain Lion install DVD or USB stick if you wish; Apple's license terms say you can update all your computers with one purchase.
    • Get the applications on your computer ready for 10.8: apply latest fixes. Remember that PowerPC programs will not work.
    • Delete junk files. Carefully.
    • Delete Safari, iTunes, and Firefox caches, so your backup will be faster.
    • If you have customized your desktop background or screensaver, write down your settings. Some Apple-provided pictures may not be available in the next version.. make a safe copy of anything you will want after upgrading.
    • Empty trash.
    • Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility.
    • Clean up damaged and duplicate fonts.
    • If you modified your Apache configuration, save a copy of /etc/apache2/httpd.conf.
    • If you installed modules via CPAN, Macports, or Fink, make a list of them.
      perldoc perllocal | grep :: > cpan_modules.txt and
      port installed > macports_packages.txt and
      fink list -i | grep -v virtual or dpkg --get-selections | cut -f1 > fink_packages.txt
  2. Backup and prepare.
  3. Install
    • If you use a wireless mouse or keyboard, put in fresh batteries.
    • Set screen saver to NEVER, and turn off Time Machine.
    • Dismount and unplug or power off external drives.
    • (Some folks think you should boot from a Mountain Lion install disk at this point and run Disk Utility to repair the hard disk.)
    • Run the OS X 10.8 installer. It will run for about 15 minutes, then reboot, then run for about an hour, then reboot again. (The "time remaining" will show wildly varying estimates as the installer proceeds.)
    • Select  ► Software Update to update to latest version, then run again to make sure all software is updated. (about another hour) For installers just downloaded from the Apple Store, this step will may find app updates but any OS update will be included.
    • Do a "smoke test" to verify that your computer is working OK. Try out the new applications. Make sure the ones you depend on are still working. If you have trouble, restore your backup and go back to the old OS version.
  4. Recover
    • Wait for Spotlight to finish indexing (may take several hours). Performance will suck till it finishes.
    • Turn on Time Machine and start your backup. Time Machine may complain that it has to discard your old backup and start over, and then do a big backup that takes hours. (For me it didn't do this, worked fine.)
    • Repair permissions with Disk Utility again.

Post Install Tasks


There are some Mountain Lion features I disable as soon as I install it:

You will probably want to set up other customizations, such as your desktop background and screensaver.

Apple Provided Applications


Programming Tools

Mountain Lion observations

I have installed Mountain Lion on three computers.

As a security measure, the plugin that allows Java applets to be used in web pages is uninstalled, to avoid attacks like the Flashback malware. If you understand the risks and wish to install a Java web plugin from Oracle, browse to a page that contains a Java applet, and click on the "missing plug-in" message to install the plugin.

New Features I Have Not Tried Yet

Bugs/Gotchas in Mountain Lion

Planning for the next version

Mountain Lion was followed by the next version of OS X 10.9, "Mavericks," in November 2013. See "Get your Mac ready for Mavericks" from Macworld. Keep a list of the software and devices you use and depend on, so you can check that they are supported.

Home | FAQ © 2010-2023, Tom Van Vleck updated 2023-11-08 08:53